When my copy of "Refresh Your Faith" arrived last week, I was really excited. I met Lori Hatcher at the Asheville Christian Writers Conference in 2018. It was my first conference so I felt boldness to talk to anyone. I met Lori by the elevators, and she was instantly nice to me. I didn't know she was leading until later in the conference. She planned to pitch this devotional book at that conference. Two years later, the published version is even better than I'd hoped..
Lori Hatcher provides a unique way to grow your faith muscles by examining uncommon verses from every book of the Bible in “Refresh Your Faith.” As promised, this book really does take a deep dive into unfamiliar passages from God’s Word so we can learn how to apply the whole Bible to daily life. Every word of God is true and blesses the heart and mind. I love how Lori sheds light on passages we may otherwise skim over to show their value to our walk with God. She makes passages that seem less relevant relatable with her stories and insights.
Her devotion on Habakkuk “Even Strong Ones Grow Weary” hit really close to home. I decided to quit beating myself up for not being able to carry the weight of the world, and instead hand it over to the God who was already holding the universe in His hands. Each devotion also includes questions at the end to challenge readers to apply what they’ve learned, which really helped me internalize the message. If you are tired of the Bible feeling stale, this devotional book will help renew your appetite for the bread of life. I wholeheartedly recommend it!
My heart is heavy to pray for our country and our world. Please pray with me for revival. So much hurt fills our land right now, and we can't fix it ourselves. Only God can heal our wounded world. Prayer lets us join the healing process by taking our pain to the Great Physician.
We often quote 2 Chronicles 7:14, without looking at the verse before it. 2 Chronicles 7:13 says, "When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people” (NKJV). While we still have rain in America, famine could come due to global food insecurity caused by supply-chain disruptions. Locust currently swarm parts of Africa. COVID-19 is considered a pestilence or plague. Our world needs healing and not just from COVID-19. We need deep spiritual healing.
How do we get spiritual healing? 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (NKJV). God desires to hear from heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land, but first we must obey His requirements. Please pray with me these four things based on 2 Chronicles 7:14 to bring revival:
First: Pray for soft hearts to humble themselves before God. For people’s ears to yearn for truth and not the excuses for sin that their itching ears seek. James 4:6b says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (NKJV). American society values independence and self-reliance; yet, when our independence comes at the cost of depending on God Almighty, the Lord resists us. We must acknowledge our desperate need for God to receive His grace.
Second: Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray for revival. Pray for other people to pray. Pray messenger angels will move through the Holy Spirit to stir the hearts of God’s people to cry out for revival. We need a multiplicative prayer effort with prayers rising to the throne of God in force. The more prayers we raise, the more power God can release into the world to draw us back to Himself. James 5:16 says, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (NKJV). May our prayers bring healing to our land.
Third: Pray that we seek God’s face. As we sit in quarantine, we can make no excuses that we are too busy to spend time with God. Without the distractions that tug at our hearts, may we Christians use our time wisely by diving into the Word and getting on our knees in prayer. “Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord” (Hosea 6:3a NKJV). May our relationship with God be the driving motivation of our lives.
Fourth: Pray for people to repent. Often, loving God is easier in word than in deed. The sin that so easily entangles us can cry louder than the still soft voice of the Lord. Yet, only one way leads to truth and life. We must turn from our wicked ways and get back on the path of righteousness. The time for repentance has come.
It’s time we awaken from our slumber.
It’s time we rend our hearts and not our garments.
It’s time we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
It’s time we confess our sins, knowing that He’ll faithfully forgive.
Will you join me today and reclaim our country for Christ? The United States has a strong Christian heritage founded on religious freedom and love of God. We must forsake our sin so that God can heal our land. Don’t let our rich history end with people who have strayed so far from where we started as a nation. Who will pray with me? Who will stand in the gap and cry out for our world? Who will bring heaven to earth and call down revival?
The call is here. The time is now. How will you respond?
Send this to everyone you know to pray for revival for our country.
By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35 NKJV
I invited her to Starbucks so I could apologize.
The lady had shown up unexpectedly at a Christmas party for a ministry in which she wasn’t involved. I only spoke a few words to her, mostly talking with other people. Later, while reading my Bible, God convicted me of my bad attitude, so I decided to make amends.
Apparently, she had not noticed my rudeness until I said something. Instead of forgiving me, she laid out a long list of complaints. The coffee acid burned my stomach. My efforts to reconcile had backfired.
The next day at work, I couldn’t focus. Words swam on my computer as I saw her accusations replay on the movie screen in my mind. Why couldn’t I be nicer? I felt abysmal. A colleague noticed tears cruising down my cheeks and asked what had happened. I told her how I had asked for forgiveness from someone and received a tongue-lashing instead. She tried to console me, telling me I wasn’t a monster. In time, God healed my wound.
Months later, the same woman needed help with moving, so I volunteered. When I told my coworker, she was shocked. Why would I help someone who had been so nasty to me? It made no sense. I told her I would want people to help me move, so I needed to serve others. My associate couldn’t understand. Why show love to your enemies? She recommended I ignore the request and hope someone else would assist.
I remembered Jesus’ words that His followers should show love. Doing so helped my coworker see something different in me than she saw in the world. She recognized my love for others. I told her God had forgiven me of much worse. I could forgive someone who had hurt me. I could share God’s love when I had none of my own to give.
The world cries out for vengeance. When we choose to love—when we would rather hate—God gets the glory. Giving undeserved love seems illogical and separates us from nonbelievers, but they will know we are Christians by our love.
Let your life display Christ’s love to everyone, even when it’s difficult.
Used by permission Christian Devotions Ministries.
Peace. In a world full of fear about the coronavirus pandemic, we could all use more peace. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Instead of being anxious about what could happen, I have to pray to God with thanksgiving. Then His peace protects my heart and mind.
Thanksgiving is the key to peace in this passage. When we choose to focus on the good things instead of the bad, the focus moves to God’s ability and His provision. Thankfulness is a spiritual weapon that changes the atmosphere and allows God to pierce through our worries.
Here’s some questions that address anxieties I imagine many of us face during these strange times. Praising God and holding to His word will get us through the days ahead.
What if I can’t handle social distancing and get really lonely?
Social distancing is an extrovert’s worst nightmare. I get my energy from being around people, so this is a real concern. Instead of stressing over potential loneliness, I can thank God for promising to never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). I can praise God for modern technology like Skype and Zoom that allow my church and Bible study to meet online. I can hand write cards to friends in other cities. I can call a friend who lives in another time zone with whom I don’t get to talk often. God will not leave me isolated. I just have to ask Him to reveal to me new ways to show His love to others.
How will I pay the bills?
Many people are being told not to come into work. We have to shelter in place to flatten the curve so fewer people get the coronavirus. For the millions of people in the United States who are paid hourly wages, this hit can be scary. Matthew 6:31-33 says, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
God knows we worry about our needs because we are human. Earlier in Matthew 6, God points out that He feeds the sparrows and clothes the lilies. Because we are worth much more than the birds and flowers, God will care for us. He knows our needs and will make a way to get us through this season. There may be difficulties, but we aren’t to doubt God. We look to Him as our Jehovah Jireh, Our Provider. If the Lord provided ravens to feed Elijah by a stream (1 Kings 17:1-6), when we seek His kingdom first, He will feed us too.
What if I run out of toilet paper?
While I cannot control that I didn’t buy toilet paper fast enough, I can thank God for the toilet paper I do own. I might have listened to the voice of panic instead of the voice of the Provider when I realized I only had two rolls left. Four stores and no toilet paper later, God reminded me I had friends. He would meet my needs. I think of the widow whose oil did not run out as she helped Elijah (1 Kings 17:8-16). I serve a God of miracles. If I don’t have enough toilet paper, He can make it last indefinitely. Worry won’t add one sheet of toilet paper to my roll, but trusting God can help it stretch until more becomes available. The Lord cares about every aspect of our lives, even toilet paper.
Though we live in uncertain times, we can be certain that God’s mercy endures forever. The hand of the Almighty is not shortened. The same God who laid the foundation of the world will see us through until He calls us home to heaven (Philippians 1:6). Find things to thank God for during this flu season. Ask Him for His perspective on your situation. Choose to grow deeper in Your trust in the Lord instead of allowing fear to consume you. Then walk in peace.
This week I am sharing my friend Sallyann's blog where she ends with a 14-day prayer challenge to combat COVID-19. She asked me to join, and of course I agreed! Because I am adding a link to her blog, I moved the challenge up front on my website. Starting tomorrow, WILL YOU COMMIT TO PRAY FOR THIS WORLD everyday at 12 pm EDT (or anywhere in the world you are located)? If so, please leave a “YES, I’m praying” comment, and I’ll post a reminder each day on Twitter/Facebook. (She is posting reminders on Instagram too.) Prayer is the most powerful way we can fight coronavirus as God can do what we cannot. Please join in the prayer battle!
Praying Life Our Lives Depend On It
Right now, it seems that the only safe places are in our homes or out on a hiking trail where the air is fresh and the people are few. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has hit our country and the world in unprecedented ways that most of us have never experienced in our lifetime. In recent days, international travel restrictions have been put in place, non-essential travel across the Canadian and Mexican borders has been restricted and many states have enacted “statewide stay at home orders” and “closure of all non-essential retail business.” Needless to say, this feels somewhat like being trapped in a movie where the world is ending.
I can become emotionally ragged if I’m not careful. The cares of life toss me to and fro, battering me into the ground. I swing between trying to shove everything down and bursting into tears. When I examine my emotions as I go instead of letting them build, I can better manage my feelings and obey God’s call for my life.
Here are some of my top picks to help process my thoughts and be emotionally healthy:
God cares about every aspect of our beings. He knows that emotional health enables us to serve Him from a place of strength. If you need an emotional checkup, God will join you in the journey to renew your soul. Psalm 139:23-25 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (NKJV). Ask Him to clear out the junk from your heart so it can be filled with His deep love. The Lord will reveal His truths, remove our worries, and renew our emotions so He can use us for His kingdom purposes.
Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. Netflix. The average American in 2015 took in 34 GB of information every day. That’s 100,000 words! My mind hurts just thinking about it.
Because of the deluge of data, our brains are becoming overloaded. We spend so much time trying to focus that we can’t. Our minds can only process so much at once. Though it may sound counterintuitive, to focus better, it helps to take regular mental rests. Taking breaks from thinking frees up space so the brain can think creatively. We need to erase the junk and clear our minds so we can process what is important to dwell on.
Personally, trying to tear myself away from my desk is difficult. Putting alerts on my calendar at work to pop up and remind me to give my mind a breather has helped me refocus. I am not recommending scrolling the internet all day or streaming movies on YouTube when it’s time to work. We need to do everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). But when we take the time to mentally unwind, we don’t hit tunnel vision where creativity and productivity end. Instead, stand up and stretch. This can be invigorating as it gets blood (and thoughts) flowing again.
Other suggestions for mental rests include:
These breaks don’t have to be long. Five to ten minutes is fine. But the little space you give opens the door to mental renewal.
Not only do we need to rest our minds, we also need to conduct regular mental resets. Mark 12:30 says, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment” (NKJV). We are supposed to love the Lord with all of our mind. If we aren’t aware of our thoughts, how can we love God with our minds?
Every morning I recite Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (NKJV). When the deep thoughts inside me please God, the things that come out of my mouth will also honor God.
I’ve learned that instead of letting my thoughts stream freely, I must slow them down and inspect them. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (NKJV). The enemy inserts evil thoughts into my mind. If I am not attentive, those thoughts will take root and choke out the truth. When I examine my thoughts, I can determine if they match God’s Word. If they don’t, my job is to uproot them like a weed, and replace them with truths from the Bible.
I am growing in how I love the Lord with my mind. Through His strength, I am stepping away from the onslaught of information to clear my head, and taking my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. No matter how much data enters, if it doesn’t match Scriptures, I need to delete it. I pray our minds conform to the mind of Christ each and every day.
This week I had the honor to guest blog for College and Clayton Press. A recent bought with the flu forced me to slow down and reflect on Biblical rest.
Below is an exert from the blog and a link to the rest of the article:
Last week, the flu gave me an unexpected gift. The nurse advised that sleep and fluids were the two most important things I could do to recover. Six days of sickness had reduced me to cough drops and herbal tea.
While asking God to heal me, God reminded me that rest is part of His plan. I live in a big city where if you aren’t Type A, you may not survive. Everyone is expected to be busy. If you aren’t, you are labeled lazy. To try to keep up, I have been going and going like the energizer bunny. God, however, wanted me to slow down. I had already hurt my foot and been walking slower, but apparently, I needed to halt.
My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up. Psalm 5:3 NKJV
I am not a morning person.
Caffeine is my friend. I drag myself out of bed and struggle to dress in the dark lest the light burn my eyes. I’ve gone to work with mismatched shoes because I fumble for them under my bed by touch. In grad school, my ultimate goal was to lie down again, which meant that if I could rest for sixty seconds I’d return to bed.
But I’ve discovered when I don’t start my day seeking God, the day goes downhill quickly. Once, I was in a rush and skipped my morning Bible reading. The results were disastrous. Management didn’t like the project I presented, and, instead of calmly taking the feedback, I left in a fog. Had I read Psalm 124 that morning as planned, my perspective would have differed. I would have remembered the Lord was on my side. When people rose against me, they wouldn’t swallow me whole. God would protect me.
The psalmist knew the importance of turning his heart heavenward in the morning. When I meditate on Scripture before I face the day, it provides a lens of truth through which to frame my experiences. Once I leave home, the world seeks to overwhelm my mind with information. If I have no filter to sort the onslaught, then everything becomes factual and weighs down my soul.
I have to choose to answer God’s invitation to look to Him in the morning. I try to read a psalm or a proverb each day before work. These books have enough chapters to cover six months, so I read them through twice in a year. Maybe other verses call you louder, but the point is that we need to respond to God early. God will help us pull back those sheets and open His Word so we can start the day right.
With Jesus (and a little coffee) you can be ready for whatever comes your way.
Used by permission Christian Devotions Ministries
After receiving stitches for my dog bite, the nurse gave me special footwear. The ugly black shoe extended past my toes and was built to fit either foot. A thick flat base prevented me from rolling my foot and opening the stitches. The top opened with two sets of Velcro to ease pressure on the wound and allow me to get in and out of the shoe. It wasn’t as clunky as the medical boots, but still marked me as the walking wounded.
Upon returning to work, I was amazed at how many people stopped to empathize. At first, I thought the shoe was giving me away. Then I realized my slug’s pace was another clue. Apparently, many people had experienced foot or leg problems and remembered their trials. Once I chatted with three strangers in a hallway, all of us with leg issues. We shared our struggles with mobility and encouraged each other.
Their comforting words kept me going. Because they were in the same predicament, they knew my difficulties. If they could do it, so could I.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
God comforts us in our hard times. Yet, this verse points out an interesting reason as to why He comforts us. So that when others are troubled, we can extend to them the same comfort we received from the Lord. We aren’t to hoard our comfort, but empathize with others and seek to help them. Even the areas where we feel entitled to be selfish are really to point the glory back to God.
In high school, I dropped a moving ramp on my other foot and tore the tendon to my big toe. The doctor gave me emergency foot surgery that day, and I later had to go under anesthesia at the hospital for them to fix it. I started high school on crutches, enduring raw skin under my arms and gaining uneven leg muscles. Ever afterwards I tried to hold doors for people on crutches and extend empathy when possible. It helps to have a recent reminder to care for others.
God knows that down the road, someone will need our help. If we have walked a similar path ourselves and survived, we are better equipped to encourage them. Those people can gain strength to continue because they know others have gone before them. God doesn’t waste our hurt, but transforms it into something marvelous for His glory.
While I still find the black shoe ugly, I know the empathy I’ve gained from wearing it will make me more beautiful inside. And with large scars now on both feet, I may never win any beauty contests. However, I pray for beautiful feet that will carry the gospel and love of Christ wherever He leads me.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Virginia.